Doctor Who at Newton's laws of television

Recalling a Bow-Wow

by Matthew Newton

There have been a number of Doctor Who plays over the years, ranging from the Dalekmania inspired "Curse of the Daleks" to the song and sci-fi spectacular "The Ultimate Adventure"/I>. However, one play remains all but forgotten - Richard Franklin's "Recall UNIT".

The concept for the play originated at a convention. Franklin, who of course played Captain Mike Yates during the UNIT era, met up with some of his old co-stars and came up with the idea for a play in which the UNIT team are recalled to duty. This was not Franklin's first play - an earlier work had rejoiced in the title "Shakespeare was a Hunchback". "Recall UNIT" finally came to the stage in the Summer of 1984 as part of the Edinburgh Festival when I was lucky enough to attend.

Having gained the backing of his UNIT co-stars, Nicholas Courtney and John Levene, it was somewhat disappointing that Courtney ultimately proved unavailable. A hastily written replacement, Major Molesworth, was created to take his place and Courtney provided a recorded message. Jon Pertwee was also originally intended to make a guest appearance at one performance, although instead John Scott Martin was on hand to play the Supreme Dalek.

The plot of the story was somewhat complex; it started in a theatre that had been rented by a mysterious Swedish woman called Miss Bergbo, ostensibly to hold auditions for a show to be taken to a conference of politicians in the Falklands. Auditioning here were Franklin, Levene and the Courtney character, who gradually take on their roles of Yates, Benton and the Brigadier. It soon becomes clear that dirty deeds are afoot, planned by the Master (off-stage), the Supreme Dalek and a race of aliens called the Dragoids, who all bore an uncanny resemblance to Margaret Thatcher. In order to foil these plans, the trio take a TARDIS trip to the Falklands where they become involved in a pantomime, leading to Franklin and Levene becoming a pair of Ugly Sisters.

The play had a heavy comedy element and featured a number of musical items, including Franklin's now infamous rendition of "Daddy Wouldn't Buy Me a Bow-Wow".

Apart from Franklin and Levene, the cast were relative unknowns, even to Doctor Who fans. Lena Lindewall, who was really Swedish, played Miss Bergbo, and an Edinburgh Youth Theatre actor called Graham Snith appeared as Alistair, her star-struck stage manager. Also appearing was a mime artist called Paul Holness and the muscular Glynn Dack, a singer-cum-Elvis impersonator. Worthy of special mention was Richard Kettles, who had the difficult task of replacing Nick Courtney. Other characters were played by members of the DWAS Edinburgh and Lothian local group, who also got to double up as Dragoids.

The play was subtitled "The Great T-Bag Mystery", something which has often puzzled those who did not see it. The reason for this was revealed at the very end of the play when the Prime Minister has disappeared, only to be found in a teapot after a close encounter with a Tissue Compression Eliminator...

The play ran from 20th to 25th August 1984 at the Moray House Theatre, one of 840 plays in the Fringe Festival. As a result, many performances were poorly attended, but this allowed Franklin and Levene to meet with fans afterwards.

After the play closed there was talk of moving it to London with involvement from Courtney, Pertwee and even Katy Manning. Franklin was also looking into the possibilities of writing a book based on the play, or even a video. However, these were not to be and "Recall UNIT" is destined to remain a virtually forgotten contribution to the story of Doctor Who.

RECALL UNIT or The Great T-Bag Mystery
20th to 25th August 1984, The Moray House Theatre, Edinburgh.

Written and directed by: Richard Franklin
Designed by: James Helps
Script advice by: George A Cairns
Lighting designed by: Christopher Corner
Costumes by: Jennifer
Technical ASM by: Stephen Charles

Cast in order of appearance: Graham Smith (Alistair), Lena Lindewall (Miss Bergbo), Paul Holness (Silent Stephen), Richard Franklin (Captain Mike Yates), David Roylance (Hamish), Liam Rudden (Jimmy), Kevin Philpotts (Tim), Glynn Dack (Stallion), John Levene (Sergeant Benton), Richard Kettles (Major Molesworth) with Nicholas Courtney (Voice of the Brigadier) and John Scott Martin (The Supreme Dalek - 24th August performance only).

Originally published in Think Tank issue 16 (December 1990).

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Copyright MJ Newton 2003. All rights reserved.
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